Saturday, December 2, 2023

What I Read in November

Unsurprisingly, I just couldn't keep up the reading pace! Getting through 13 books each month in September and October was huge for me! For November, I clocked in a not-too-shabby total of 10 books (I read two of those for potential publicity so won't include them here). 

Let's see what I read in November, shall we? 

The Keeper by Boris Bacic

I read They Came From the Ocean a few weeks ago and enjoyed it so much that I immediately looked for another Boris Bacic book to buy, and landed on this one. I mean, Lighthouse horror... c'mon you guys, how could I say no?!

Sadly, I wish I had. The writing was subpar. The twist was pretty predictable. And the spooky stuff just wasn't spooky enough.

At least it was cheap.

When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord

Read this cover to cover in one day because it was just that good. It sucks that I am super late coming into this one. I have no excuse other than it just happened to fly under my radar for way too long!

The book opens as Lumen, now a married woman and mother of a young son, reflects on her experiences growing up in a small town with a very peculiar ritual. There, every child, without exception as they hit puberty, enters a year-long phase referred to as "breaching", where on the nights of a full moon, they tear from their homes and run wild in the streets and woods, terrorizing their bodies and the bodies of other breaching teens. It's viewed as a necessary passage into adulthood, a social norm, and Lumen wanted nothing to do with it. Already an outsider amongst her peers, having been raised by a single dad and being small for her age, she was determined to escape the animalistic urges when they hit her.

We follow Lumen as she revisits her memories from that strange time while simultaneously coming to terms with the woman she's become and the secrets she's been harboring since escaping her hometown.

While slow to reveal itself, When We Were Animals is stunningly violent and graphic. It's a captivating and lyrical coming of age story unlike any other.

To Be Devoured by Sara Tantlinger

I've had this book on my radar for so long and finally found someone on pango who was selling it!

What starts out as a sapphic, slightly obsessive love story quickly takes a dark and unsettling turn into body horror and mutilation, fantasies about roadkill, and oh yes, even some cannabalism.

This book was so fucked up and I loved it so much! Except for the scene with the menstrual blood. That, of all the things in this gross and demented story, icked me out.

Not for the weak of stomach but oh that prose. It was written so beautifully for something so gross and twisted!

Bloom by Delilah S Dawson

I remember walking the bookshelves at BAM and stumbling across this one in the horror section. I hadn't heard a thing about it and worried that it sounded a little too romancey for me, but it was in the HORROR section so I figured eh, why not, and bought it. And I'm glad I did because this one was a win!

It's a sapphic love story that starts out all cutesy and flirty and curious with weird boundaries that quickly becomes obsessive and extremely manipulative that then becomes damn right straight up horrific!

If you're an anticipatory reader, you'll figure this one out reaaaally early on but I don't think that spoils the ride at all. Honestly, it moves kind of slowly so even if you do have it pegged right, you won't know just HOW right you pegged it until those final few pages.

It's worth it. I promise. It all comes together when it's ready.

You gotta tell me what you think when you read it!

Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

This was one of the longest shorter books I've read in a while. I can normally devour a two hundred paged book in a day but Nightbitch seemed to never want to end. It just kept going and going and going and going, which really sucks because I had high hopes for it and am so disappointed.

Initially, I was drawn in by Yoder's writing style and the mother's body dysmorphia for the first 70 pages or so but good loooord does she drag this shit out.

The only character who really had any depth and development was the mother and she was extremely unlikeable and an honest to god nutcase. As a SAHM, with a barely there husband who travels for work all week, we meet the mother right as she finds a new patch of hair at the base of her neck and a sore bump at the base of her spine and begins to believe she is becoming a dog.

What starts out as an intriguing premise crosses over into eyeroll and let's-get-on-with-it territory pretty quickly. For almost the entire length of the novel, I just wanted to scream 'someone get this looney bitch to a doctor already' because she's completely off her rocker and yet no one seems to notice. How her husband and the library moms haven't called social services on her, I'll never understand.

I know most of you have already read and loved this one but it just tried my patience a little too hard.

Are there any popular books out there that missed the mark for you?

Grey Dog by Elliott Gish

In Grey Dogs, we meet Ada, a school teacher who has moved to Lowry Bridge to escape a horrible indiscretion in the hopes of rebuilding her reputation. She moves in with a childless christian couple named the Griers and learns they had boarded the previous teacher, who left in the middle of the night to return home to care for her ailing mother.

As Ada begins to settle into her new routine, she starts to experience odd things that defy explanation - a swarm of crickets that disappear almost as suddenly as they had appeared, a dying rabbit in the middle of an undisturbed blanket of snow, and a deer that appears to birth a deformed human child before expiring. She also swears there's something out there in the woods, stalking her, just out of sight.

Intially, she keeps these peculiar encounters to herself for fear that the Griers and the rest of the towns people will think she's gone mad, until she uncovers a bizarre sentence scribbled into one of the old teacher's book of poetry, and learns that the Grier's once had a son who died under strange circumstances. These discoveries, along with the increasing terrors she keeps falling victim to, find our Ada quickly unraveling.

It sounds pretty good, right? While it's not a bad read, it's not a great one either. The book is saturated in grey - grey skies, grey faces, grey clothes, grey everything. I'm not kidding. The color grey was used to describe EVERYTHING in those first handful of pages.

Putting aside the grey overload, though, the breadcrumbs that Gish left for us to follow were just enticing enough to keep me reading, even beyond the few points where I was seriouly beginning to consider DNFing. I wanted to know where this was going, if what Ada was experiencing was real or all in her head, if there really was something deeper and darker going on in that place...

Do I regret seeing it through? I'm not really sure. I don't know what I was expecting but the ending we got certainly wasn't it.

Moths by Jane Hennigan

Pandy fiction where the silken threads from a rare breed of poisionous moths affects only human males (and birds), either killing them in their sleep or driving them into violence and madness... uhm yes please!

Like most pandemics, it hits fast and countries all over the world are forced to jump into action to protect the women and isolate the men while they try to figure out how this is spreading, in order to slow the death count, and determine why it's only impacting males.

The book starts about 40 years post-pandemic, following a carer named Mary, who works at one of the facilities that houses the uninfected men, where she and other staff members do their best to provide the men the best life they can while protecting them from the constant threat of the moths. Yes, even 40 years later, the world hasn't figured out how to exterminate the species or properly vaccinate or cure the men. And through some creative flashback chapters, we learn more about Mary and her life before the pandemic, and how women have managed running the country without the men post pandemic.

While wiping men off the face of the planet is not new in fiction (Afterland, The End of Men, The Men), Hennigan breathes new life into the genre. One where the men don't know any other life. And where the women are taught about them in school, but unless they sign up to Contribute (become impregnanted with a male child that will immediately be turned over to the goverment and raised in one of the facilities) or visit the facilities for recreational sex, they may live their entire lives without ever having seen one in person.

When Mary learns from a new co-worker that there might be a vaccination after all, and that the women who are running the country are willing to kill to keep it hidden, she finds herself heading down a path from which she might never return.

After 40 years of keeping the men contained and calm, what would happen if they were reintroduced into society?

It's really good you guys! You gotta give this one a read.

The Bullet Swallower by Elizabeth Gonzalez James

I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this book.

It's a well paced western with some cool magical realism elements mixed in. Moving between two timelines, the reader follows the Sonoro bloodline - in 1895, we ride along with Antonio, a bandido who is on a mission to avenge his brother's death, and in 1964, we're with Jaime, Antonio's grandson, an actor who discovers the gruesome truths about his grandfather and decides Antonio's story must be shared with the masses, against his father's wishes.

There's violence and greed and revenge and a mysterious stranger named Remedio, who once made a decision that went against his nature and is now destined to follow the ripple of its effects through the Sonoro generations until its debt is paid.

Sounds intriguing, right?!

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